‘Phytonutrient’ has been a buzzword for quite some time now in health circles. You may have come across this in articles related to healthy foods. Still, can’t figure out what they are? Or wondering how the consumption of foods with phytonutrients makes you super healthy?
What Are Phytonutrients?
When you think of nutrients, vitamins and minerals come to your mind. Well, phytonutrients are neither vitamins nor minerals. Phytonutrients, also known as phytochemicals, are plant nutrients with specific biological activities that support human health. Making it easy for you, they are a variety of compounds produced by plants. And their duty is to protect the plants from fungi, bacteria, excess ultraviolet radiation, and other harmful infections. Every other fruit and vegetable contain phytonutrients. The plant-based foods such as beans, whole grains, and nuts also contain phytonutrients.
The color, smell, and flavor of these fruits and vegetables can be traced back to the presence of phytochemicals. By looking at the deep hue of a fruit you can identify whether they are rich in phytonutrients or not. However, less colorful veggies are also blessed with phytonutrients; for instance, onion and garlic.
These phytonutrients are generous enough to offer all these benefits to those who enjoy the plant food. As you eat them, you will have multiple beneficial effects on your body. However, remember that they are not considered essential for life, like carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. They have the potential to enhance the immune system and detoxify carcinogens. They can even slow down the aging process. A diet rich in phytonutrients can prevent the deadly impact of ultraviolet radiation. Thousands of phytonutrients have been identified so far. However, a few have been studied thoroughly. Want to explore them? Read on.
They efficiently tackle free radicals in your body, acting as an antioxidant. Thus, you are saved from the damages caused by these radicals. The appealing color of many of the fruits and vegetables is because of carotenoids.
Beta-carotene: It is found in bright yellow/orange fruits and vegetables such as pumpkins, papayas, carrots, sweet potatoes, and green vegetables like kale and broccoli. Most beta-carotene in them get converted to vitamin A. They also help you protect against sunburn. Preliminary studies have linked beta-carotene with a reduced risk of lung cancer.
Alpha-carotene: Even though not as efficient as beta-carotene, it also produces vitamin A. Alpha-carotene intake is also associated with longevity. More research is needed to confirm this. It can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Lycopene: An excellent antioxidant. Of all the carotenoids, lycopene is most effective in fighting free radicals. It is also associated with improved bone health, reduced prostate cancer risk, and stroke risk. It is found in red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, and guava.
Lutein: Ideal to treat your eye problems. Dietary sources include kiwi, egg yolks, collard greens, kale, Brussels sprouts, and spinach.
They are the largest group of phytonutrients. Like carotenoids, they are also responsible for the bright colors in fruits and vegetables. Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties will strengthen your immune system. A flavonoid-rich diet is highly beneficial for men with type 2 diabetes. Additionally, flavonoids are productive in dealing with inflammation and weight loss.
Flavonols: The widely known phytonutrients – quercetin and kaempferol come under this group. They are present in berries, chocolate, wine, apple, tea, onions, and kale. It may promote your heart health and lowers the risk of Asthma.
Catechins: They are capable of preventing certain types of cancer. And green tea is the most popular source of catechins.
Anthocyanins: They are found in dark colored fruits like red grapes, blackberries, cranberries, blueberries, plum, cherries, kiwi, pomegranates, and strawberries. Also in vegetables like cabbage and eggplant. Apart from its antioxidant effect, they may help you with obesity and improve vision.
Remember that cooking may diminish the antioxidant content in the food. Lightly steaming the vegetables may retain more antioxidants than boiling it. Well, now you know that the amazing benefits, don’t think of buying phytonutrient supplements. It may not have the same impact. Some people may even experience an allergic reaction to supplements. So, the best option is to enrich your diet with organic plant foods.